The Informative Funny

Stephen Colbert has a sweet tooth. Or else he has neglected his flossing. With a cheesy thumbs up, Colbert sports an elf-like grin revealing his dental history as he poses alongside a smug faced Jon Stewart on the cover of the most recent issue of Rolling Stone. The cover reads, "Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert: America's Anchors". The two-page layout introducing the interview inside reads,

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert faked it until they made it. Now they may truly be the most trusted names in news.

According to the article,

A recent Indiana University study found that The Daily Show was just as substantive as network news during the 2004 election.

It cannot be argued that many young people today look to alternative sources for their news. I regularly, before the tragic loss of cable imposed upon me through the penury existence of graduate school, relied on The Daily Show for more than Stewart's wit.

But the talents of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have brought the role of satire in media to prominence. As an unabashed lover of anything farcical, who has been known to channel Mike Meyer's mother in So I Married An Axe Murderer when referring to The Onion as "the paper", I can't say I take any issue with this.

While the responsible citizen cannot rely solely on the jokes made at the expense of our nation's leaders to inform their socio-political opinions, the farce can incite inquiry into the factual. I must admit that there have been a few occasions in the past when watching The Daily Show or the Colbert Report when, due to my own political ignorance, the joke has been lost on me. Led by the hubris of my perceived sense of humor, I declared that I must not have missed the wit, but merely lacked information. Thusly, I was compelled to hit the laptop and become better informed as to not miss the next joke.

We can look to the punch line not only to stimulate further investigation, but a healthy political discourse as well. While clever comedians can find material in any political climate, the fact that certain jokes can be made serves as a wake up call to the public to question their leadership and demand more.

While in an ideal world, America's young people would only be supplementing the knowledge gained from the New York Times or Washington Post with the satire of Comedy Central, in an age where apathy is the new drug of choice on campuses across the nation, it is nice to know that kids are keeping up on current events in some manner.

If anything the successes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert reflect a more astutely informed public. A sentiment mirrored by the Rolling Stone interviewer,

I'm not surprised that young people who watch it are well-informed. I read about ten newspapers a day and three news magazines a week, and I have my TV tuned to cable news all day, and I still find myself taking notes from The Daily Show.

The key to good satire is thorough knowledge of that which is being poked fun at. The success of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report suggests that the viewing public is maintaining the level of political and social consciousness required of them to get the joke. As long as there are facts, there will be farce. By making the news fun, hopefully more Americans are being made to think while they are being made to laugh.

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